The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

SirSaccCer's blog

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It has taken me a while to make real progress with sourdough, but after a few weeks of nurturing my starter and training myself to be more patient during the bulk ferment and proofing, I'm finally getting somewhere. Really pleased with how the crust and crumb turned out on this one. Getting a decent score is my last real hurdle; I can get an ear to open up quite nicely, but my diamond and box cuts often seal up as the loaf bakes. Still playing with some parameters there. Getting sort of back to work has cut down on time available for baking, alas.

I have definitely figured out how to get just the right amount of steam in my gas oven. My system is a cast iron pan on the bottom of the oven, but above the baking stone I place an inverted cookie sheet. This traps a nice cloud of steam just above the loaf. I remove the sheet after 10 minutes, by which time most of the steam is gone anyway.

It was a magic moment to peek at that loaf after a few minutes in the oven and see that mostly everything was going right. Looking forward to doing it again!

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Today I made my second attempt at baking the birote salado from Guadalajara, Mexico. It doesn't seem to be particularly well known outside of its home country: there is no English Wikipedia entry about it, for example, nor (to my great surprise) has it been mentioned on this site outside of a recent thread. I think it's time for the birote to make its way into these hallowed halls, so others can have a go at it, play with the recipe and try making an at-home version of delicious tortas ahogadas, or "drowned sandwiches". These sandwiches are a Guadalajaran street food with which the birote is inextricably linked.

Note that the recipe and much of what I know about the birote salado comes from David Norman's Bread on the Table, an excellent book with a full smorgasbord of recipes for unique European and other breads.

The history of the birote salado seems uncertain, but it's generally agreed that it is based on recipes of the French, who brought their baking techniques to Mexico when they were occupying the country in the mid-1800s. One story is that a French soldier called Birotte invented the bread, while another is that the Birotte family bakery was among the first to produce it. In any case, it's easy to see how the baguette might have inspired the shape of the birote, which is elongated like the baguette but typically much shorter. But in contrast to the traditional baguette, not only is the birote salado leavened with wild yeast, the levain is fed with beer! This appears to slow fermentation considerably, and of course it adds characteristic malt and hop flavors to the final product.

Here is a short video (en español) with a few words to say about the history and popularity of this unique bread. Even if you don't speak Spanish, you'll still enjoy some really cool shots of the production line.

On to the recipe, which makes eight 150 g rolls, each about the right size for a sandwich. I did a half recipe as a trial bake.


LevainMassBaker's %  
Ripe starter20 g3%  
AP flour270 g39%*39% prefermented flour
Beer175 g25%  
Final dough    
Levain all   
AP flour430 g61%  
Salt18 g2.50%  
Sugar20 g3%  
Water444 g64%*20 g more than original recipe 
Total1376 g197.50% 



  1. Begin with a ripe starter (I fed mine and let it ferment for ~9 hours). Mine is 60% hydration, but since the initial starter is just a small percentage of the final dough, I imagine a 100% starter would work fine with no modifications.
  2. Let the beer come to room temperature (a Mexican lager for most traditional flavor, but as you can see, I just used what I have), then mix with starter and add flour. Combine til homogeneous and ferment levain for 12 hours.
  3. Mix final dough dry ingredients together. Dissolve levain in water and add dry ingredients to wet. Combine until homogeneous (my dough was medium stiff--in fact I had to add a few more grams of water, for which I accounted in the recipe above). Stretch and fold 4-5 times over the course of an hour until the dough is taut and smooth.
  4. Bulk ferment for 4-6 hours, punching down once after 2-3 hours. The recipe claims 2 hours of total fermentation, but that is impossible in my hands. The dough never doubled in volume and generally seemed a bit sluggish (I think the microflora are probably a bit hung over from all that beer). However, it was clearly filling steadily with gas, so I took my chances with it after 6 hours.
  5. Turn out and divide into equal portions (8 x 150 g, or perhaps 4 x 300 g). Preshape into balls and rest 20 minutes.
  6. Shape rolls much like baguettes: a few median folds and then a roll and taper. Think "bananas" to get the classic shape. Nest in couche or tea towel.
  7. Allow to rise for 1-1.5 hours. As before, the rolls did not double in volume, but they got gassier as evidenced by the poke test.
  8. Score with one cut along the axis, at a shallow angle. Bake at 475 °F, with steam, for 10-12 minutes. Remove steam, reduce heat to 450 °F and bake a further 10-18 minutes until crisp, golden and hollow-sounding when thumped.
  9. Let cool and enjoy. To make a torta ahogada, the basic idea is to cut a birote nearly in half, spread it with refried beans, stuff with carnitas, dunk (all the way!) in garlicky tomato sauce and drizzle on some spicy arbol chile salsa. Recipes abound on the internet. Or check out David Norman's book!

Modifications to consider

  • I was concerned that the dough would be too dry, but I think it held fine. The beer seems to make the dough a little slacker. When I get better with wet doughs I can perhaps add a few more grams of water.
  • I know there is not a lot of hands-on time in any bread baking activity, but the 7-8 hours from mixing dough to baking can be tricky to find when my schedule is back to normal. If I were in more of a hurry, I'd treat the levain more like a paté fermentée, and add a gram or so of yeast to the final dough, which should shorten fermentation time to under 2 hours. In fact as I understand it this is how it is typically made in Guadalajara. Or else I'd find a point to retard in the fridge; maybe a long cold bulk fermentation would do ok.


Beery levain

Beery levain (¡Salud!)

Dough before bulk ferment

Dough before bulk ferment

Dough after bulk ferment

Dough after bulk ferment (didn't rise a whole lot, but obviously bubblier)

Birotes en couche

Birotes on the couche, before rising

SirSaccCer's picture

A fun experiment that satisfied my yearning for a bagel or two. I riffed on a stiff dough recipe, introducing plenty of whole-wheat and rye flour for dark malt and honey flavors. These turned out with a slightly bready crumb, but I think they are a good starting point for future bakes. Delicious with fresh chive and onion schmear!

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Not a bread, but something to do with it when you've baked too much! I stumbled on a nice recipe for panade from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at The Guardian. This bread-based stew is a vegetarian favorite that I'd somehow never heard of. With extra sourdough baguettes lying around, no ideas for dinner, and a fortuitously-purchased head of cabbage in the fridge, panade seemed like the right thing to do. It was super tasty when baked in a cast-iron Dutch oven but I imagine just as good (and maybe not quite as wet) when done in an oven pan. I used parmesan for cheese instead of gruyere. Apparently one of the great things about panade is its flexibility: you can put basically anything into it and still get a rich, filling result.

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Lately I've been enjoying the freedom to bake on a more... open... schedule, and I've been trying some combinations of techniques I've learned from a book or two and the supremely knowledgeable members of this forum. For sandwiches I love nothing more than piling tasty fillings atop a tasty baguette, so I thought I'd try using my levain to bake baguettes for the first time. Unfortunately I don't have a stone big enough for two-footers so I had to truncate these down to "baton" length.

This was a modestly hydrated dough (75%) leavened with a stiff starter that I worked up overnight in two feedings. I tried a bassinage (second water) step and I guess it worked alright, though I don't have any other experience to compare it to. I forced myself to be more patient during the bulk fermentation and final rise, to good effect I think. They taste delicious--pleasantly sour--and are nice and airy within.

Now I am just trying to figure out how to properly score, load and steam my loaves to get some nice ears (or pretty slashes or lack of blowout, for rounder loaves). I took a look at some helpful scoring tutorials but still need practice putting all of it together. I'm not thrilled to be stuck at home but it's a good opportunity to work on baking skills!


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Hello from a first-time poster! I'm still working on getting truly photogenic loaves, but I am exploring other uses for my levain too. My partner and I were craving English muffins, which I thought would be a perfect way to use up some extra starter. Going off the very easy KAF recipe for sourdough English muffins shared by kjnits, I got some satisfactory results. The texture and flavor of these just crushes anything from the grocery store.

The OP, kjnits, was absolutely right to hold off on the last 3/4 cup of flour for a moist and tender crumb. Besides that, I only modified by a) feeding my cold, 60% hydrated starter to 100% hydration and letting it sit for ~8 hours prior to overnight fermentation, and b) preheating a griddle in the oven for 20 minutes before stovetop "baking". And I used cornmeal instead of semolina (haven't bothered to purchase the latter yet).

If you love English muffins and have extra levain to experiment with, give that recipe a go!

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